New Questions and Answers

August Q&A

Q. Is login a verb or only a noun? I’m wondering because the following sentence seems wrong to me: “To login to your personal account, enter your user name and password.” Shouldn’t it say log in as two words rather than login?

A. The verb is log in; log-in or login is the noun. You can confirm this in a dictionary.

Q. Dear CMOS Q&A Guru, we are having a heck of a time ferreting out the correct verb tense to use in the second half of a sentence. There are copyeditors lobbying for each of the following conjugations:

1. At the time of distribution of this circular, this item is not yet approved.

2. At the time of distribution of this circular, this item was not yet approved.

3. At the time of distribution of this circular, this item has not yet been approved.

4. At the time of distribution of this circular, this item had not yet been approved.

Can you definitively state which is most correct and why? Please help us put this question to rest. Thank you!

A. Your question is like asking “Which is the most correct: her eyes are blue, or her eyes are green?” The sentences are all grammatically correct. The idea is to use the one that describes the situation accurately. Sentences 1 and 3 are equally correct if the time of distribution is ongoing. Both imply that the item still has a chance of being approved, without stating whether approval is likely. Sentences 2 and 4 are equally correct if the time of distribution was in the past. Both imply that the item was ultimately approved, although it’s merely an implication.

Q. Dear CMOS Staff, in a recent issue of one of our periodicals, I altered the original lineup of the names of five coauthors appearing under the title of an article and reordered them alphabetically. One of the coauthors is unhappy with this and requests, too late, to keep the original lineup, which, I assume, implicitly establishes some hierarchy in authorship. What should be my response to the unhappy coauthor?

A. Your response should be groveling apologies and a promise to issue a correction in the next issue of the journal and in the online version. Name order is important to authors in certain disciplines, as it indicates who is the lead author. It is meaningful to anyone who reads the paper or sees the citation on a résumé. Sometimes employment and promotion depend on having published a certain number of articles as the lead author. This is a truly regrettable error—the kind of error that can put the reputation of your periodical into question. Please make every effort to make amends.

Q. Please help me alphabetize Villa Grove and Village. (My son and I have a disagreement on this.)

A. You can’t go wrong. If you use word-by-word alphabetizing, Villa Grove comes first. If you use letter-by-letter alphabetizing, Village comes first. Please read CMOS 16.59–61 on alphabetizing to understand these methods.

Q. I publish memoirs. One of my authors wants to include selected blurbs and reviews as part of the front matter. I’ve seen this done in other books under the heading “Advance praise for this book” or a similar heading. My questions to CMOS are (1) is it appropriate to include blurbs and reviews as part of the front matter, and (2) if so, where should they be placed? Thanks.

A. Many publishers include such blurbs. As you say, you’ve seen them yourself. Academic/scholarly publishers rarely do this; hence CMOS is silent. At a bookstore or library you can look at the latest memoirs to learn what’s in fashion.

Q. I’m copyediting some storyboards for kiosk displays in a state park and in the description of a historical site, there’s reference to “2,500 BP.” I know what that means (now that I’ve looked it up), but why not just say “ago”? Should I assume the audience for these displays will know “BP,” or may I suggest simply saying “ago”? (I thought, “British Petroleum,” for Pete’s sake.)

A. It’s a good idea to change it, since visitors to state parks include many people who would have no idea what BP means. But don’t get your hopes up: it’s likely that the state has a style guide and that all its signs conform to that style.

Q. In this sentence, “Inside the Bellevue, Washington, laboratory, where innovations are under way . . .” it seems to me that the comma after Washington distracts from the meaning. Since “Bellevue, Washington” describes “laboratory,” could one omit the comma? Or is that a hard, fast, no-exceptions-ever rule?

A. Although we never promote our guidelines as hard, fast, no-exceptions-ever rules, the second comma is Chicago style as well as standard use outside Chicago. The idea is to treat Washington as parenthetical, which requires a pair of commas.

Q. Is there a preferred way to refer in text to a specific column or row in a table? I tend to reuse the text in the column heading or stub entry rather than a number, just because I think it’s clearer that way. For example, “See ‘Countries’ column” rather than “See column 4.” Is that wrong?

A. Not at all. Some tables have numbered rows and columns, in which case “See column 4” is a perfect way to refer to the column. But a reference to a column number when the column heading is a word or phrase would not always be clear (e.g., which is column 1: the table stub or the first column after the stub?), and in a table with many columns, the reader would be forced to count the columns to find the data.

Q. I work at a university press, and during a meeting of project editors we had a disagreement about the correct placement of the glossary. CMOS recommends that the glossary appear between the notes and bibliography. Although we’ll accept this as your final answer, our question is why? Thank you!

A. Like many of the rules in CMOS, this one was begotten lo those many years ago. In an early edition of the manual, the glossary was placed just so, and then that edition begat the next. The next edition begat the following one, and the following one begat the one after, and so on down unto these very days. Obviously, someone at the dawn of time thought it was a good idea, and no one in all the generations since has found reason to mess with it. And so that is why.